Sunday, May 17, 2015

Parent Hacks

Parenting hack: do stuff with your kids.

Actually, that's not really the hack. Here's the hack: you don't need to be crazy about it or anything - stuff you were already going to do in the first place works just fine. It'll take way longer and you'll need a glass of wine to cope with it the first couple dozen times, but eventually your efforts will pay off.

Oh, I guess that's my second hack for you today: wine. Lots of it.

I find cooking and baking are some things that are good to do. (You needed brownies, right?) My hope and expectation has always been that, eventually, the kids would gain some basic safety, common-sense and, heck, maybe even cooking skills. Maybe they could get themselves breakfast one day... pack a lunch without help... cook a meal for the family once in a while... not die of malnourishment in college. Y'know, the basics. I had a long game to meditate on when they were splashing pancake batter all over the damn place as toddlers.

Interestingly, I've noticed over the years that there are a ton of knock-on educational benefits associated with cooking that I had never even considered in my long game:

There's literacy: because "cookies" is an excellent motivator for sounding out that tricky word in the recipe, as is learning the deceptively big difference between cinnamon and cayenne.
Chemistry: proteins denature, carbon dioxide bubbles form, what the heck is Teflon anyway?
Math: fractions, measurements, conversions, ratios
Physics: phase changes, conduction, convection, surface tension, gelling
Biology: bacteria/safe food handling, nutrition, yeast, PMS

Yup, even PMS: the fact that we had chocolate-chip pancakes for supper once a month growing up was how my brother learned about the menstrual cycle. Kudos to him for noticing there was a pancake cycle; I filled him in on the back story. I'm certain he will make some lucky gal a fine husband one day - he learned early on to be very supportive of any female initiatives involving chocolate.

Final hack for the day: HERE is the easiest, kid-helper-friendliest, PMS-iest recipe I have on file.

Just think of how educated your child will be after helping you make these once a month for their entire childhood. You are an excellent parent. Go ahead, have some wine.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Aim High! ... Er, Not Quite That High

Small Fry emerged from the womb with a sort of natural athleticism that is completely foreign to me. If you show him something physical once, he immediately masters it and will forevermore be the world's best monkey bar swinger, two-wheeler rider, snow shoveler, whatever. (I'm not kidding - he has excellent shoveling form. He's like a textbook snow shoveler.)

I am not like that. Medium Fry is not like that, either - although it doesn't really seem as if it should be a heritable trait, this is clearly something she gets from me. We were both embarrassingly old when we finally learned how to ride a bicycle. We can't skip rocks, or catch frisbees, or ever really "get" team sports. If there are "fine motor skills people" and "gross motor skills people" in the world, I fully acknowledge that I am waaay over on this end of the spectrum doing some crocheting. 

Which brings me to Zumba. I mean, not in any logical way - in retrospect I'm very poorly suited to it. It's just that it kindof looked like it might be fun, and the promotional materials would have one believe that it's "for everybody and every body" so I decided to try it out at the community centre one night.

I didn't have crazy high hopes for myself or anything - I picked a spot in the class near some senior citizens just in case. And good thing, too, because I was even worse at it than I had expected. One of the senior ladies stopped me after class and gently said, "Have you tried crocheting, dearie?"

Haha, just kidding, that was only what she was thinking - but she did pat me on the shoulder and tell me it took her a few classes to catch on, too. Her friends nodded sympathetically. "Oh yes, us too, just keep trying!" Point being that the seniors were not only clearly out-Zumbaing me, but also that my performance was so pathetic that it engendered grandmotherly instincts in a gaggle of complete strangers.

But whatev. This many years in, I'm more or less accustomed to being really terrible at most things involving more than a modicum of coordination. I'll just keep attending class, and I'll improve with time. That's how these things go, right?

Week 2: Right??

Week 3: Isn't it how they go?

Week 4: Okay, seriously. Tell me this is going to get better one day.

Week 5: What?! Did they just change the songs again?!

Week 6: Wouldn't you know, right in the middle of La Zumbera: illumination. I have been conditioned, through a lifetime of inspirational messaging implicit in everything from office posters to family movies, to believe in the underdog - the overcoming - the breaking through. Perseverance, right? Motivation! The ragtag team gets their shit together and wins the championship! The fat kid finally catches the ball! The middle-aged lady's limbs miraculously begin working in graceful, rhythmic tandem for the first time ever!

I had been waiting for my Disney moment. Unconsciously, of course - my rational brain certainly knows better, it was just being circumvented by... well, by false advertising, really. Ah - so I can't be quite anything I want to be? I'm actually probably going to plateau somewhere right around "good enough", or maybe even "middling" or "half-assed" at some things? Several things?

Man, that takes the pressure off! Thank goodness. Now I can finally relax and enjoy my Zumba classes. 

Week 7+: Happily doing fukken terrible Zumba.